This week marks the third anniversary of the attempted coup in Myanmar. Over the past three years, almost 26,000 people have been arrested by the military junta, with the vast majority still in detention. A further 4,453 people have been killed by the military.
Recent research by our partner, the Business & Human Rights Resource Center, shows that the labour and human rights situation continues to deteriorate. More than 50% of the 314 cases of alleged labour and human rights abuses recorded by the centre involve wage and severance theft. Gender-based violence and harassment among workers are also widespread. When workers and labour rights organisations seek to respond to these violations, they often encounter retaliation from employers or even violent crackdowns from the military. For instance, more than a dozen workers and labour group members connected to a wage strike at an Inditex/Zara supplier, Hosheng Myanmar Garment Factory, were tracked down and detained by the junta for months.
The International Labour Organization’s Commission of Inquiry recently concluded that the military junta has exercised far-reaching restrictions on union activities and has violated Myanmar’s obligations to the International Convention on Freedom of Association.
Changing the course and restoration of human rights in Myanmar requires the support and engagement of the international community; this includes brands and private sectors that have been investing in Myanmar. However, thus far, garment brands have seriously failed to uphold human rights standards and respect the labour rights of already vulnerable workers. Brands disproportionately and ineffectively rely on social auditing, business-led stakeholder initiatives and worker coordinating committees to prevent and address abuse. Meanwhile, some brands that announced withdrawal from Myanmar have failed to do so responsibly, refusing to address, for instance, the targeted harassment against unionists.
CCC’s role is to amplify the voices of and protect garment workers, and to be guided by the demands of our members regarding the protection of their rights. We reiterate our calls to the international community and to international brands to prioritise the human rights of workers and ensure that their operations do not support, either directly or indirectly, the military junta. This includes the suspension of the EU’s preferential trading system ‘Everything But Arms’ with Myanmar in view of the serious and systematic human rights violations occurring in the country.
In May 2023, CCC South East Asia Coalition joined more than 100 civil society organisations calling for a review and reframing of the Association of South‐East Asian Nations’ ineffective Five-Point Consensus. The Five-Point Consensus has failed to yield any meaningful results; the international community, including the United Nations Security Council, must take the lead to protect the people of Myanmar.
In this darkness, we see hope from the people of Myanmar who continue to stand firm against the terror. Unionists and labour groups are doing all they can to organise and defend the rights of the workers. They have inspired us from the outside to continue to stand in solidarity and mobilise against the military junta. We witnessed the power of international solidarity from unionists, activists, and concerned citizens, where pressure on the military junta could sometimes relieve activists from troubles.
Believe in the determination of the people and believe in the power of global solidarity. Stand with Myanmar!